Disco Queen Donna Summers Loses Her Battle With Cancer At 63
THE POP MUSIC WORLD was stunned Thursday by the death of Donna Summer, the original “Disco Queen” who ruled the late 1970s and proved over the next three decades that she and her music were stars, not fads.
She was 63 and died after a secret battle with cancer, her publicist said. She was reportedly diagnosed with lung cancer 10 months ago but had made no public acknowledgment.
“It was a big surprise,”said John (Jellybean) Benitez, the famed deejay, producer and remixer who had worked with Summer and is now executive producer of Sirius XM’s Studio 54 Radio.
“I don’t know anyone who had heard about it. But that was her — she was a very private person.”
“I’m still in shock,” said Joe Causi of WCBS-FM, who will devote his whole show Saturday night to Summer.
“If you were driving around the streets of Brooklyn in the late 1970s and your 8-track wasn’t playing Donna Summer, it was probably broken.”
Summer won five Grammys and is a member of the Dance Music Hall of Fame. She died in Naples, Fla., near where the family owned a condo.
Summer burst onto the pop scene in 1975 with the seductive “Love to Love You Baby,” and followed with a string of hits that included “I Feel Love,” “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls,” “On the Radio,” “MacArthur Park,” and “Last Dance.”
In 1979, she joined with Barbra Streisand for the power anthem, “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).”
Because her music became instantly popular in dance clubs, she was labeled a disco artist, which she and many fans considered unfairly restrictive.
“This woman was the queen of disco and so much more,” Elton John told E! News. “That she has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a total disgrace.“
“She was the face of the disco movement,” says Jeff Foxx, afternoon host on WBLS. “But she bridged dance music and R&B. It may have been called disco, but there was some funky stuff going on. And she brought Barbra into the game.”
“You’ll still never find a better song than ‘Last Dance’ to end any concert,” he added.
“The chord progression, her singing — wow.”
Summer’s recording career tailed off in the 1980s, although she continued to perform.
Joel Salkowitz, who programmed the original dance radio station Hot-103, recalled a show at Roseland Ballroom where “she absolutely killed.
They may have put a lot of production behind her music on records, but she could sing.”
“The ‘controversy’ of disco is now ancient, irrelevant history,” said long-time city radio host Famous Amos. “What remains of Donna Summer is the memory of one of America’s, and world’s, greatest recording artists.”